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Judge Voids Un-Auditable California Election 177

Posted by kdawson
from the recount-or-rerun dept.
For only the second time in California history, a judge in Alameda County voided an election result and called for the election to be re-run, because the e-voting tallies from Diebold machines couldn't be audited. The vote was on a controversial ballot measure addressing the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, and the result was a close margin. Activists went to court to demand a recount, but after the lawsuit was filed, elections officials sent voting machines back to Diebold. The court found that 96% of the necessary audit information had been erased. The judge ordered the ballot measure to be re-run in the next election.
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Judge Voids Un-Auditable California Election

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  • Corporations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZuG (13394) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:46AM (#20850299) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, the corporations seem to win no matter what you do. Running a ballot measure is incredibly expensive. It costs a lot of money to raise public awareness of an issue and run things like get out the vote measures.

    Dragging out a measure with a revote tilts things well in favor of corporations, who have the cash to sustain such an operation. Now the reformers are going to have to fundraise all over again so they can try to put forth an effort in the next election.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith also said county officials should pay attorneys' fees and reimburse a medical marijuana group more than $22,000 for the costs it incurred during a disputed recount shortly after the November 2004 election.
      At least the medical marijuana group got reimbursed for their attorney fees but... You are right, they now have to campaign to get people out to vote for this again and that equals $$$. It's hard enough to get around all the government disinformation about marijuana,
    • by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:13AM (#20850557)
      the corporations seem to win no matter what you do

      You'd think that Frito-Lay would be all over this initiative. And Dominos. While it may be hard to re-muster the Stoner Caucus to do this all over again, perhaps the Munchie Cartel can pick up the slack.

      California. *sigh*

      There's plenty of reasons to re-invent electronically-assisted voting (I like the also-spits-out-paper variation, myself), but it really doesn't help the cause when - to a casual newsreader - an important test case seems to be about weed.
      • "but it really doesn't help the cause when - to a casual newsreader - an important test case seems to be about weed."

        Seems to me a lot of "important test cases" are about social taboos, the woman in the bus, Larry Flynt, Roe vs Wade,....umm I forget but you know fair's fair an all..."casual newsreader" = bubble, bubble, toil and trouble...zzzzzzz.
      • There's plenty of reasons to re-invent electronically-assisted voting (I like the also-spits-out-paper variation, myself), but it really doesn't help the cause when - to a casual newsreader - an important test case seems to be about weed.
        The illegality of Cannabis is one of the greatest fraud of our time. The fact that it is connected to the case of a brave new world of election fraud doesn't diminish anything.
        • by ScentCone (795499)
          The illegality of Cannabis is one of the greatest fraud of our time.

          No, I'm pretty sure there's no fraud involved. It actually IS illegal. You have not been defrauded, the laws actually are as written. Or is that not what you actually meant?
          • The illegality of Cannabis is one of the greatest fraud of our time.

            No, I'm pretty sure there's no fraud involved. It actually IS illegal. You have not been defrauded, the laws actually are as written. Or is that not what you actually meant?

            So you do think that smoking one marijuhana cigarette will render the smoker hopelessly addicted, and violently insane, and that a rise in its use would lead to a wave of axe murders?
            Because those are the fraudulent reasons for which it was first made illegal, provisionally, pending a revue. When revues were done, and said that it shouldn't be classified in the same category as heroin, new fraudulent reasons to keep it illegal were invented. When these were scientifically proven false, new fraudulent reaso

          • Re:Corporations (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Deagol (323173) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:20PM (#20853391) Homepage
            I think he meant that the history behind the demonization of weed has been solely to the benefit of big business, the prison industrial complex, and big government, while at the expense of taxpayers and the freedom of many individuals. All with a host of evidence supporting that, in terms of substance with abuse potential, pot should be *way* down on the priority list, if on the list at all.
            • by mqduck (232646)
              While all you said is correct, I think you're also giving the government too much credit for being calculating and logical. The government was scared to death of the hippie movement, and went to ban that which was integral to it - a totally irrational response. Dope isn't a threat to any regime - if anything, it's the opposite.
              • by mqduck (232646)
                Of course, I'm talking about drugs in general. But if I recall correctly, pot wasn't declared totally illegal till some time in the 60s.
          • by eh2o (471262)
            "In the broadest sense, a fraud is a deception made for personal gain." (wikipedia). "Fraud" not *strictly* a legal term.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Guppy06 (410832)
        "but it really doesn't help the cause when - to a casual newsreader - an important test case seems to be about weed."

        Why not? The reason the election result was contest in court to begin with was because of how close a vote it was, suggesting that "to a casual news reader" it's something contentious and debatable, rather than simply the refuge of scoundrels.
    • by cez (539085) * <info@historystar ... m ['gye' in gap]> on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:43AM (#20850855) Homepage
      Plus... this is for a medical marijuana vote... I'm sure it was tough enough for supporters to make it to the polls the first time! Who imagines they'd actually remember when the revote will be...
  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:47AM (#20850303) Journal
    I'd be nice to eliminate the source of the problem, rather than have to litigate over the after-effects.
    • by RandoX (828285) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:49AM (#20850329)
      Yes, you would.
    • by will_die (586523) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:52AM (#20850365) Homepage
      If you had read the article, you would know that the problem was not the machines.
      The city did perform a dump of the data before they returned the machines to Diebold; that was the responsibility of the people in california. Diebold was clearing the machines and when told to stop they did, however only 20 of the 400+ machines had not been cleared.
      • by sacrilicious (316896) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:07AM (#20850513) Homepage
        If you had read the article, you would know that the problem was not the machines.

        But the problem really was the machines. Diebold's machines don't create paper trails. If there'd been a paper trail, that paper wouldn't have gone back to Diebold HQ and would not have been erased.

        • Maybe I missed something, but it seems to me that this is simply an issue about whether the machines should have a printer attached.

          Obviously many people think that would be a good idea.

          Do others suggest it would be a bad one? Why? What is the reasoning behind that? Or was it just that nobody thought of that when designing the machines?

          Why hasn't this been fixed already?
          • by mpe (36238)
            Maybe I missed something, but it seems to me that this is simply an issue about whether the machines should have a printer attached.

            Actually the issue is more one of "why use a machine for something better done by humans".
            Redoing this election as pen/pencil on (hemp) paper. Would be far more reliable than messing about with any of these machines. Even if they need to employ Canadians to do the job.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by tlhIngan (30335)

            Maybe I missed something, but it seems to me that this is simply an issue about whether the machines should have a printer attached.

            Obviously many people think that would be a good idea.

            Do others suggest it would be a bad one? Why? What is the reasoning behind that? Or was it just that nobody thought of that when designing the machines?

            Why hasn't this been fixed already?

            Obviously someone who has never watched or read about the Diebold systems. They already have printers attached! Which proves it's not a tec

          • by Hatta (162192)
            Why hasn't this been fixed already?

            Because the people responsible for it have a vested interest in not fixing it.
          • by sacrilicious (316896) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @11:23AM (#20852411) Homepage
            Why hasn't this been fixed already?

            It really makes one think, doesn't it? I'll quote a slashdot entry from an earlier related discussion [slashdot.org]:

            The e-voting machines produced by Diebold are deeply flawed in concept.

            The "e-voting" concept should be that the computer prints the ballot and that paper ballot is your vote. That ballot lists ONLY the names you chose. You read that and drop it into the ballot box.

            The computer counts the number of paper ballots it has printed for each candidate. This number can be released to the news agencies. But the real vote is the paper ballot.

            At the end of the day, the names of the voters who used that machine are counted, the paper ballots are counted and both of those are compared to the total number of votes the machine says were cast. If they don't match, there is a problem.

            In case of recount, the paper ballots are hand counted.

            A random number of machines are checked against the ballots cast at them.

            The fact that this is such an obvious solution and that it is so trivial to implement is what makes the chosen convoluted, hackable, no-recount alternative so suspicious. What company would choose (and what government would allow) anything but the easy and elegant solution described if not because they plan to perpetrate election fraud?

    • by julesh (229690)
      I'd be nice to eliminate the source of the problem, rather than have to litigate over the after-effects.

      This will be enormously expensive for the state government. You can bet that they'll be seeing what steps they can take to prevent something like this happening again, and switching to a voting machine with an auditable paper trail will probably be one of the possibilities they consider.
      • They already have - Alameda County stopped using Diebold electronic systems two elections ago.

        Last election they used the Sequoia Optec voting system - which uses a mark-sense ballot - for most voters and AVC Edge with VeriVote Printer for vision-impaired voters. Prior to that, they used the old-fashioned mark-sense forms that they use for absentee voters for everybody. Vision-impaired voters could have their ballots read to them or use one of the few remaining Diebold systems in local city halls.

        I haven't

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:50AM (#20850939) Homepage
      'd be nice to eliminate the source of the problem, rather than have to litigate over the after-effects.

      Agreed but it's highly illegal to take all politicians and corperate executives and kill them on pikes in public.
      • by mpe (36238)
        Agreed but it's highly illegal to take all politicians and corperate executives and kill them on pikes in public.

        Would a Jury convict? As a practical issue you might need to ensure you had enough pikes.
      • Agreed but it's highly illegal to take all politicians and corperate executives and kill them on pikes in public.
        It is only illegal if you don't get *ALL* of them and leave enough behind to carry on the current government. Once you institute a new government, then it is up to that *new* government to determine whether the public pike thing was illegal.

        Its all a matter of perspective. :)
      • by Kingrames (858416)
        Yes, but how much would it cost to bribe them to pass a bill allowing that?
      • Agreed but it's highly illegal to take all politicians and corperate executives and kill them on pikes in public.
        Well clearly we need to add another referendum to the ballot that would make such a thing legal. If it fails, then we know that the machines are rigged.
  • Here's some info on what was actually being voted on, because both the SLashdot and EFF summary treat it as a virtual irrelevance:

    The plaintiffs were backers of Measure R, which would have allowed medical marijuana clubs to move into retail areas in Berkeley without public hearings and would have erased limits on the amount of cannabis that patients could have.

    According to the county's certified results, the measure lost, 25,167 to 24,976. The initiative lost again in a recount.
  • Shame on Diebold. Why did they ALLOW them to send back the machine before things were taken care of. Why did they ERASE the machines before things were taken care of?

    Do they have any clue whatsoever about what they are doing? Has the nation not bitched enough about paper trails and how precarious votes are already? It doesn't take much sense to see that you can't take chances like this on a product that isn't proven and is under -heavy- scrutiny.

    I'm in favor of electronic voting machines in general, but
    • Re:Shame on... (Score:4, Informative)

      by will_die (586523) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:56AM (#20850413) Homepage
      From the article it was the responsibility of the place holding the vote to do the dump of the data.
      Diebold was responible for clearing the machine once it was returned, which they did.

      • by Aladrin (926209)
        That's great. If they go to court, that'll probably hold up.

        It won't do jack shit for their reputation, and that of their machines. All anyone will know is that this election had to be redone, Diebold could have prevented that, and if they'd used paper ballots, it wouldn't have had to be redone.

        When creating a new system that -has- to be reliable, it also has to be as fool-proof as possible. Writing blame into the contract is not an acceptable solution. Proper training, supervision, and backup systems w
        • Re:Shame on... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:26AM (#20850685)
          It won't do jack shit for their reputation, and that of their machines. All anyone will know is that this election had to be redone, Diebold could have prevented that, and if they'd used paper ballots, it wouldn't have had to be redone.

          So, you're in favor of the equipment vendor actually having a hand in the policies and practices of running the elections themselves? This is exactly the sort of thing that people have been screaming about - too MUCH influence by the hardware vendor.

          Again, shame on Diebold for not having a fscking clue how to make and sell their product.

          Except, they made it just fine (it did just what it was asked to do), and they sold it just fine, too. You seem to be suggesting that they should have their own people sitting in election board offices, monitoring the ups and downs of a political process at the local level, and consulting on how the local election board should carry on with the daily activities that they are paid to conduct. Is it your perception that part of Diebold's sales cycle and contract with the entities that use their gear is that they should be on call to direct those districts/states/municipalities/counties in making election process decisions - relative to local statutes and election rules and particular events - about when and how in-machine data should be handled after the election is over? Was that part of the sale - such relatively open-ended consulting services? How many election board meetings should thousands of Diebold employees attend in order to save people from themselves? How many tinfoil-hat conspiracy nuts would then see their involvment in such proceedings to be just another case of elections being 'stolen' by whoever it is they hate that week? Can't have it both ways.
          • Diebold creates ATMs with paper trails. They don't need to attend every council meeting or voters' rights group association to know that paper trail == good. Additionally even comparing their recount process to a regular paper-vote process would immediately show that there are edge cases where they would be unable to perform a recount but a paper-trail election would be able to.

            It seems pretty obvious that having a hard-copy of critical data makes sense for the use cases of voting. It doesn't cost hundred
            • by ScentCone (795499)
              Diebold creates ATMs with paper trails.

              And they can build voting machines that way too, if their customers ask for them. Again, that's a policy and procurement issue at the election board level. If the election board can't imagine that they want a particular feature, despite years, now, of experience on the part of voters and media coverage galore, then who exactly are you saying should be making those decisions? The equipment vendor? And when the equipment vendor is the one telling election boards what
              • And they can build voting machines that way too, if their customers ask for them. Again, that's a policy and procurement issue at the election board level.

                I agree 100% with that statement. Your original post, however, seemed to imply that the only possible way Diebold could achieve such a request was through a rediculous amount of manhours and attending every single council meeting, which is false.

                And when the equipment vendor is the one telling election boards what their policies should be, how do you add

                • by ScentCone (795499)
                  Your original post, however, seemed to imply that the only possible way Diebold could achieve such a request was through a rediculous amount of manhours and attending every single council meeting, which is false.

                  No, my original post spoke to the issue at hand, here. The people USING THE MACHINES decided it was time to send them back to Diebold, where - as always - they are wiped. The decision about when the local election board, in the context of how well-settled a given election/issue is or is not, cons
          • by dbIII (701233)

            So, you're in favor of the equipment vendor actually having a hand in the policies and practices of running the elections themselves?

            Whether people like it or not they already are. Personally I think the state should not give up the means of choosing it's representatives to an outside body that is motivated by profit and is governed by little in the way of checks, balances and preventing criminal involvement. The criminal history (including fraud convictions) of some of the people in the Diebold election

      • From the article it was the responsibility of the place holding the vote to do the dump of the data. Diebold was responible for clearing the machine once it was returned, which they did.

        Which in my opinion simply becomes an argument against paperless machines... so that this very brand of finger-pointing can't be used to cover up the stealing -- or even just the screwing up -- of elections.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rucs_hack (784150)
      Why did they ALLOW them to send back the machine before things were taken care of

      Because once the machines were back they could be sent somewhere else and make more money

      Why did they ERASE the machines before things were taken care of?

      Because the last thing they want is definitive proof that their equipment is in error, that would cut their profits. Better an election be voided then that.

      Has the nation not bitched enough about paper trails and how precarious votes are already?

      No

      Do they have any clue whatsoe
    • Shame on Diebold. Why did they ALLOW them to send back the machine before things were taken care of. Why did they ERASE the machines before things were taken care of?

      And I assume that you, of course, never wipe any machine you ever touch. Even if it's a production machine that needs to be updated, you keep everything on it forever even when your client - the machine's owner - tells you they have everything they need and that you can wipe and reinstall...

      • by Aladrin (926209)
        I'm not running elections on equipment that is getting a TON of bad press. I'm also not selling said equipment.
        • Great, so we'll blame Diebold for the COUNTY elections office's screwup, lack of following their own procedures, and failing to back up equipment. And then for telling Diebold "we're all done, thanks do with them as you will".

          Look, I'm not absolving Diebold of any of their other screwups, but this one gets laid squarely at the feet of the elections officials. It was their responsibility to govern, control, and retain the voting records. It was their responsibility to make sure any and all records were

    • by taniwha (70410)
      equally one might ask "why are they sending people's secret votes back to Diebold?" - to me that's just as worrying (and do you trust Diebold once the votes have been handed back)
  • Now instead of politicians kicking stuff around forever so that no action is taken, we're also getting entire results voided until another election cycle comes around to clean it up. That's true progress! A whole new level of inneficiency is being introduced.
  • by frdmfghtr (603968) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:01AM (#20850447)
    Why bother with all that when you can just look at the paper ballots that where printed when...oh wait...there AREN'T ANY!

    This is a prime example of why a purely electronic record of the vote is a Bad Idea. If paper ballots had been printed, reviewed by the voter before being deposited in a secure ballot box, and retained for a recount, there would be no issue.

    Against the cost of re-running a vote, those printers are starting to look pretty chap, I'd wager.
    • Why bother with all that when you can just look at the paper ballots that where printed when...oh wait...there AREN'T ANY!

      This is a prime example of why a purely electronic record of the vote is a Bad Idea. If paper ballots had been printed, reviewed by the voter before being deposited in a secure ballot box, and retained for a recount, there would be no issue.

      Those Diebold motherfuckers make ATM's. ATM's have paper trails. To say that they're incapable of creating paper records for audits or that it's too complicated of a task to solve with their technology is a lie worthy of Republican sympathizers. You think banks would put up with this kind of failure rate, with these inaccuracies? Do you think they'd put up with hackable ATM's?

      The people responsible for promoting these failed electronic voting machines are committing treason by attacking the heart and soul

  • by clickety6 (141178) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:14AM (#20850559)


    We need to get rid of these electronic polling machines.

    They should raise a proposition on this so that we can vote on the issue.

  • by zerofoo (262795) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:19AM (#20850603)
    Most industries (finance, law, medicine, accounting...etc) would laugh at the idea of IT systems that have no audit trail. In the worst case scenario, the business could be held liable for damages (sometimes criminally) if certain controls and audit functions are not in place.

    The fact that these machines were ordered, designed, and implemented without these controls shows incompetence (or corruption) at every level of the process - from voting administration, to the manufacture, sale, and installation of the equipment.

    Those who allowed this to happen, should be the subject of investigation by the Department of Justice. Unfortunately, we may have to wait for another administration to do the right thing.

    -ted
    • by aztektum (170569)

      the business could be held liable for damages (sometimes criminally) if certain controls and audit functions are not in place.

      Standard IANAL (which may be obvious enough after I post my question) but couldn't a case against the State of Cali be made for using machines that created this whole mess in the first place? Not sure how Cali. election laws are written. But there has to be a state liability somewhere for making sure elections can be certified.

      Seems fairly ridiculous that my company could be charged in court for destruction of evidence if we don't retain e-mails, but a state government can simply let the results of a publi

  • Why not (if we must do it fully electronic) on flash cards or other removable media, that the election board keeps. Send the bare machine back to Diebold.

    Of course, some sort of paper ballot would be better, but election boards seem to be following the "Oooh shiny!" train of thought.
  • So Diebold reset the machines without producing a paper trail? Why in the heck would we ever think that would be okay? I say sue Diebold for the entire cost of the new ballot issue, because the county paid for services that have now been invalidated -- and Diebold knew they had problems going into the election.That's like going into surgery with a foot doctor who knows he's not qualified to be part of a heart surgery, methinks.

    Change this to a presidential election (circa 2000) and try to recount an unaud

  • by pjt48108 (321212) <pjt48108@NOsPam.yahoo.com> on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:50AM (#20850941) Homepage
    The focus of discussions on e-voting machines always seems to come down to the reliability and accuracy of the audits. What this ignores is the potential for the actual voting records to be altered prior to inclusion in the overall voting record.

    The problem with e-voting (in my opinion) is not so much the audit trail, but the fact that e-voting adds unnecessary levels of complexity (and obfuscation and unaccountability) to the voting process. This is the result of government leaders attempting to perform vital civic services on the cheap: why pay poll workers and vote counters, when we can just use machines that do this fast and automagically?

    What the use of e-voting machines invites is the ability/potential not only to count votes FASTER, but to do so behind a hardware/software interface, where much malfeasance can be conjured in code and executed on-the-fly, beyond the observational capacity of effectively the entire voting population.

    Some things are better dealt with in the analog world. A true and accurate accounting of the will of the people is too important to a democracy for us to cut corners. I think it is worth the cost of paper ballots and carbon-based vote counters to effect the will of the people (however much one may or may not agree with the peoples' will).

    That's my two cents on a Thursday before 11am (the time of the morning at which my brain always chugs to life).
    • by blueg3 (192743)
      It's a service model as opposed to a professional model. Diebold is renting you machines, and it's your responsibility to conduct your election properly and return the machines when you're done. Not when you think you're done, but you're really not. For all I know, there could be auditing facilities (electronic backup, paper backup) that were not used. Diebold chooses to play no part in how the elections are executed with their machines, which, given popular opposition to the voting machine vendor having a
    • by mpe (36238)
      The problem with e-voting (in my opinion) is not so much the audit trail, but the fact that e-voting adds unnecessary levels of complexity (and obfuscation and unaccountability) to the voting process. This is the result of government leaders attempting to perform vital civic services on the cheap: why pay poll workers and vote counters, when we can just use machines that do this fast and automagically?

      Is using these machines actually that cheap. You still need plenty of people and you have to pay for the
    • Except that a proper evoting system would solve the problems inherent in both the fully analog and fully digital worlds.

      A fully analog system has problems such as:
      • Over/Under voting - two presidential candidates are marked. Vote is thrown out.
      • Unclear voting - the pencil mark falls between two circles. Which is it? Vote is thrown out.
      • Language barriers - it is expensive to print extra ballots in lots of different languages for every election
      • Disability barriers - providing provisions for various disabilities (b
  • No one ever talks about the good things about electronic voting machines so I'll try.

    1) They save paper. No umpty-ump thousands of paper ballots to print out and truck around.

    2) They save time with the vote counting. Computers can tally in an instant while manual vote tallying by an army of poll workers takes hours, and sometimes days.

    3) They restrict access to the balloting to just a few people. Instead of all of those vote counters putting their hands all over a mass of paper ballots, there are just a
    • by sfgoth (102423)
      1) They save paper.

      Hooray! Thousands of renewable trees have been spared to make way for thousands of expensive, fragile, electricity-sucking devices made from toxic materials!

      2) They save time with the vote counting.

      Woot! We can get the wrong answer instantly! No longer will I have to sit paralyzed for days while my town tabulates the winner of School Board Seat 6!

      3) They restrict access to the balloting to just a few people. Instead of all of those vote counters putting their hands all over a mass of pap

  • A judge specifically told the county to retrieve backup data from the machines. The county not only totally ignored her request - they acted in such a way that the data she requested was permenantly destroyed. How is that not contempt of court?

    I'm used to government inaction or incompetence affecting elections - it happens all the time - but when government officials purposely act contrary to a judge's order, that brings corruption to an entirely new level.
  • We have a huge country. No matter how fair and rigorous are our election laws, we're going to have the sampling error that even our basic science cannot avoid. So those election laws should require that elections be won by greater than the margin of error.

    A 2% victory on one Tuesday in November that governs 2, 4 or 6 years, especially with the power of incumbency multiplying all those terms, is a recipe for an ungovernable populace. A do-over (eliminating minor candidates proven not to be viable to win) wou
  • 'Voting machines forget their audit trails on marijuana initiative?"

    Sometimes the headlines write themselves...
  • Ultimately the most obvious and glaring reason for suspicion regarding the motives of Diebold (and the other black box voting machine companies) is the intentional disregard for profit that would come from having a more expensive auditable printer package.

    Considering how simple it would be to include a printer that would produce a record, and how much money they could charge state and local governments for those printers, it is indeed a very curious thing that these companies REFUSE to make that money.

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